French taxi drivers today blocked roads to airports and train stations in Paris, as part of a nationwide protest against Uber. Thousands of drivers are expected to participate in today’s strike in the French capital and other major cities, where tensions between taxi unions and private car services are running high. Protestors burned tires and turned over cars along major thoroughfares, and there have been reported scuffles between taxi drivers and other chauffeurs. Police in riot gear intervened at one point with tear gas, Reuters reports.
French taxi unions have long held grievances against Uber, and the company’s UberPop service, in particular, which relies on a network of non-professional drivers. They argue that enlisting amateur chauffeurs who don’t have to pay steep licensing fees gives the San Francisco-based company an unfair competitive advantage. A one-time taxi license fee in France can cost up to €240,000 ($270,000). A representative from the FTI taxi union tells Bloomberg that revenues for French taxi drivers have fallen by between 30 and 40 percent over the past two years, due to increased competition from Uber and other ride-hailing services.
Following today’s protest, France’s interior minister ordered the Paris police to implement a ban on UberPop in the capital. “I have given instructions, considering the grave problems with public order and the development of this illegal activity, to the police prefecture in Paris to ban UberPop activities,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters.